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Huntsville Council approves new Physician Recruitment Program
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Huntsville Council approves new Physician Recruitment Program

Posted: 2024-05-29 07:14:46 By: thebay

Huntsville Council approved the new Physician Recruitment Program, in the May 27th meeting.

Councillor, Bob Stone, and Scott Morrison have been working with staff to create a program to attract physicians to the Town for unattached patients.

According to the report, the plan offers “$60,000 per physician taking over an existing practice and up to a maximum of $80,000 per physician establishing a new family practice signing incentive per physician as selected through the recruitment process and to a maximum of ten (10) physicians in total.”

It adds that other Town incentives include waiving fees for a one-year family membership for the Muskoka Heritage Place and Pioneer Village, and for the Family Skate and Swimming.

Recruitment funds will be allocated from the Municipal Accommodation Tax Reserve (not the levy).

Economic Development Officer, Laren MacDermid, indicated that staff researched other municipalities to ensure the Town is offering a competitive package.

Stone indicated that other municipalities they came across deem healthcare as a provincial rather than municipal issue. He advocated otherwise. He said, “If people are struggling that’s where our issue is. Soon almost one third of our residents will be without a family doctor.”

He explained that the lack of care results in chronic conditions not being managed, new health issues like cancer go untreated, and an increase burden to hospital emergency rooms that are already beyond capacity.

He added, “If we can bring ten family physicians to Huntsville, everyone will have a family doctor.”

Morrison indicated that he and Stone have also been communicating with local businesses to secure additional incentives for physicians. He said all of them have been 100% on board with the initiative and appreciate it as well, as many either don’t have a physician or know someone that doesn’t.

He said, “The reaction from the business community has been stronger than anticipated.”

Local business incentives include wellness packages, auto incentives, real estate, golf, dining, legal and accounting services.

Morrison said, “We’re at right now financially an additional $11,000 committal from the local businesses community per doctor, to add on to the incentive we’re already giving.”

He explained that the goal is to be competitive with offers for people deciding where they want to practice medicine.

He added, “We know that less and less people are choosing family medicine, so, we have more people competing and less people practicing, and this is not a good situation to have.”

He continued that the Town will also be looking into retention methods moving forward.

Deputy Mayor, Dan Armour, inquired about whether they should be encouraging physicians taking over existing practices first, rather than setting up new ones.

MacDermid advised that discussions with physicians at the Algonquin Family Health Team suggested that it’s easier to take over existing practices than to start from scratch, however, creating new practices is important because there are a lot of unattached patients on waiting lists.

Councillor, Dione Schumacher, advised that three local Rotary clubs put together a scholarship incentive package with the intention of supporting a local student going into healthcare. However, they’ve only received two names so far. She concurred with Morrison that there aren’t a lot of people pursuing this area of healthcare.

She added, “We’d like to create the newer generation to see if we can get an incentive going forward.”

Council also approved and amendment to kickstart the program. It indicates, “$1000 per doctor up to 10 doctors (total $10,000) to fund additional community incentives as required…to be spent in addition to the $10,000 already budgeted in the Healthcare Attraction Promotion budget for 2024 to be funded by MAT.”

The amendment adds, “The Healthcare Attraction incentives spending for the draft 2025 and 2026 budget be increased from $10,000 to $20,000.”

Armour inquired about the current state of the Town’s MAT account.

Director of Financial Services/Treasurer, Julia McKenzie, reported that based on the revenues and expenses budgeted for the year “if we were to have 4 [physicians] at $60,000 and 6 at $80,000, we would be looking at ending balance at the end of 2024 of about $450,000.” She emphasized that the revenues are based on what they are anticipating for the year.